BALTIMORE (AP) _ The sale of a 19.9 percent share of USAir to British Airways was ''the world's dumbest airline deal,'' Ross Perot says.

The former independent presidential candidate criticized the Clinton administration's approval of the deal during a luncheon speech Wednesday before the annual convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Perot said the $300 million sale gave foreigners a toehold in a crucial American industry.

The sale was conditionally approved March 15 by Transportation Secretary Federico Pena, who said he expected the British to open their skies to American carriers.

USAir's major competitors - Delta, United and American - criticized the British investment. But USAir, which reported more than $700 million in losses over the last two years, said it needs the money to stay in business.

Perot also attacked the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. He said it would lead to a major move by American manufacturers to Mexico.

---

BALTIMORE (AP) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must reinvent itself to help lift cities out of poverty, the agency's chief says.

HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros told the American Society of Newspaper Editors on Wednesday that he is trying to reduce regulatory barriers to change.

In an interview after the speech, Cisneros said it too early to discuss specific changes at HUD. Twenty department employees will go to 71 HUD field offices next week to find out what workers think should be changed, he said.

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who appeared with Cisneros during a panel discussion, told the editors that cities need more flexibility in government regulations.

''We essentially need to be liberated. We waste money because of the way it is sent to us,'' said Goldsmith, a Republican serving his first term.

---

BALTIMORE (AP) - The United States should provide aid to Russia that will help improve the lives of average citizens, former CIA Director Robert Gates says.

Gates, intelligence chief under President Bush, also said Wednesday that the United States needs to maintain a military strong enough to deal with potential turmoil in the former Soviet Union.

Gates made his remarks in a panel discussion at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Also on the panel were Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, and TV commentator Vladimir Posner.

Further military cuts by the United States should be made gradually ''to deal with the real world that confronts us and not the one of our hopes,'' Gates said.

He also warned against promises of aid that cannot be kept, and he played down the importance of debt relief, which he said the average Russian cannot appreciate.

4-01-93 0557EST